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I Stopped Drinking; So Why am I Still Such an Asshole?

Like many survivors of trauma, I frequently find myself engaging in what mental health professionals refer to as “splitting,” a defense mechanism where people, experiences and situations are categorized as either good or bad, with absolutely zero in-between.

Today, I hate my husband, tomorrow he might become the most incredible man I have ever met. Deep down I know his behavior (for better or worse) is consistent, and the only thing that osculates is my perception of him, so theoretically, that should be enough to stop my fits of rage or crying spells. Unfortunately, knowledge doesn’t change behavior, and despite my honest attempts to do it differently the next time, I continually find myself trapped in the same hell, with all the same knowledge, but no way to implement it.

Trying Something New

This time, rather than rely on self-help books, spiritual guru’s or the thousands of blogs I scroll on a daily basis searching for a cure, I am going to do it differently, and return to the one thing I know has worked for me in the past; I am going to be vulnerable and publicly share my struggle.

I hate to admit my seemingly perfect world is nothing more than an illusion, which looks great on paper (or on Facebook), but is certainly not devoid of jealousy, insecurity.</Jo Harvey>The truth is I am ashamed. I hate to admit my seemingly perfect world is nothing more than an illusion, which looks great on paper (or on Facebook), but is certainly not devoid of jealousy, insecurity, financial stress and a deep-seeded distrust of men, happiness or love.

Like most relationships, we have wonderful times and not-so-wonderful times, but I am very anxious and afraid when challenges arise, as if they might eliminate anything healthy or positive about our marriage. Until now, I wouldn’t be honest about the difficulties we experience; I would simply agree with you when you tell me we are the “perfect couple.”

This is old behavior coming full circle, it’s almost as if I have made it a game to see how completely dysfunctional I can be on the inside, yet keep it hidden from the outside world.

Sources of Fear

Isolation, abandonment and loneliness continue to be my greatest sources of fear. I am continually drawn to the opening lines of a poem by Clementine von Radics which reads:

“I wonder if you know yet that you’ll leave me. That you are a child playing with matches and I have a paper body.”

When you have been exploited, taken advantage of and treated like something to be toyed with, it’s hard not to become the perpetrator, the one who sets it all on fire and turns love into ashes. I can’t seem to unlearn the truth that I screw-up every relationship, which leads me to manifest that belief into reality, and I end up with another failed relationship and even more evidence proving that I am right to believe I will end up alone.

Just like OxyContin won’t fix your broken leg, it will simply make you care less that it’s broken, alcohol made me less afraid of dying alone by forcing me to experience life in isolation and simultaneously hindering my ability to feel sad about it.

When I was drinking, I was always alone, but rarely felt lonely. I had a constant companion and way to numb out; but more than that, I had an excuse for my anger and rage. When I lashed out and spewed venom with my head spinning around like Linda Blair in the exorcist, I could always blame it on the alcohol, and foolishly operate under the assumption that if I didn’t drink, my rage would disappear.
It didn’t. That feeling was already inside of me.

Take a Good Look at Yourself

As Wayne Dyer said, “If you squeeze apples, you get apple juice” and truth be told, my anger was not caused by the wine, my relationships or anything outside of myself. But I liked having a scapegoat, it allowed me to continue on my path of destruction while still playing the victim.

My addiction led me to such dark and seedy places, I had no choice during that time but to abandon the pursuit of perfection.</Jo Harvey>This is not to say I haven’t endured legitimate trauma, but at the root of my anger lies the fact I still allow painful experiences to control my life. And just as I long blamed my misery on my addiction, I transferred the responsibility of ensuring my happiness onto my husband, and wonder why he is kicking and screaming to give it back. I thought he would ride in like Prince Charming, sweep me off my feet, and live happily ever-after, but I forgot one crucial piece of the story- it’s still me on the back of the horse and I’m still carrying all of my demons with me.

I am simultaneously trying to sort through all of my baggage, while attempting to live up to society’s impossible standards dictating how women should look, feel and act. I am exhausted and tired of putting myself into the “worthy” or “unworthy” category on a minute to minute basis.

It’s times like this I miss drinking, but not for the obvious reasons. My addiction led me to such dark and seedy places, I had no choice during that time but to abandon the pursuit of perfection. Forget maintaining a perfect figure, always being polite or keeping a spotless house, I was just trying to stay out of jail.

Reflecting on the few positives is a great reminder that things are neither good nor bad, they just are. And if I can find beauty in my addiction, I can find it anywhere, including my anger.

Using Anger to Gage Self-Worth

Despite my insecurities and challenges surrounding self-worth, my anger is proof that a part of me still believes I deserve to be safe and unharmed. I love that part and never want to lose it, but on my journey toward healing, perhaps I should move it from the driver’s seat into the trunk.

What I pray for in moments of insanity is the courage to be vulnerable, which exposes what’s left of my hidden shame, and unravels my need to use rage as protection. When we embrace our imperfections, there is nothing left to hide, and more importantly, nothing more to defend. By confronting head-on what we deem to be “imperfect,” we trump fear with love and bring light to dark places.

I suppose that is how we create the delicious grey areas of life, where I can admit I might occasionally still be an asshole, but I am no longer a drunk asshole, and I choose to call that progress.

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